|Publication number||US7007630 B2|
|Application number||US 10/763,399|
|Publication date||Mar 7, 2006|
|Filing date||Jan 23, 2004|
|Priority date||Apr 23, 2002|
|Also published as||US20040237875|
|Publication number||10763399, 763399, US 7007630 B2, US 7007630B2, US-B2-7007630, US7007630 B2, US7007630B2|
|Inventors||Guadalupe C. Garcia|
|Original Assignee||Worldwide Safety, Llc|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (29), Referenced by (13), Classifications (10), Legal Events (4)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/131,316 filed on Apr. 23, 2002, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,766,760, and is cross-referenced to and claims priority from U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/131,316 filed on Apr. 23, 2002, U.S. Provisional Application 60/442,355 filed on Jan. 23, 2003 and PCT Application US03/02116 filed on Jan. 23, 2003, which are all hereby incorporated by reference.
The present invention relates generally to traffic marker devices and safety cones that are used to alert or divert vehicles, watercrafts, aircrafts and pedestrians to pass safely around hazards, obstacles or other areas. More particularly, the present invention relates to a flexible safety marker device with a fast impulse response to direct (contact) and indirect (no-contact) perturbations and large flexibility.
Traffic or safety cones, are routinely used to direct motorists and pedestrians away from obstacles or dangerous area. These cones are usually brightly colored, hollow conical shaped devices made of a synthetic, rubber or other plastic (See for example U.S. Pat. No. 2,333,273 to Scanlon et al.). Traffic and safety cones are meant to minimize damage to persons or vehicles which may collide with the cones. However, safety cones are still of significant danger to the public. One reason is that, although the traffic cones are made out of a synthetic, rubber or other plastic, they are still relatively rigid and tend to fall over easily when the cones are subject to natural or traffic wind, perturbations by passing traffic or violence. Furthermore, safety cones that are, for instance, run over or hit by a vehicle, could become dangerous objects or obstacles by being airborne or simply laying on the road, in particular to following traffic or surrounding people.
A variety of different self-righting traffic cones have been proposed. For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 3,386,409 to Dietz Company describes to shape the base of the cone in such a manner that the cone is nestable or stackable self-righting in the manner of a self-righting top. The objective of U.S. Pat. No. 3,386,409 is to provide a nestable cone which, when it has been toppled over, will not roll away but will right itself and stand erect near to the position in which it was originally placed. This was accomplished by a hollow molded plastic traffic cone that has a base portion weighted to give a low center of gravity to the cone. The annular bottom of the base is gradually curved outward and upward to provide rockers so the cone is self-righting and is divided into six angularly spaced triangular legs to prevent rolling when the cone is knocked over.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,888,016 to Eui Sig Ahn et al. describes a traffic collar cone that has a delineator having a reflection sheet attached on its upper part. A plug is placed under the sheet having an air inlet and outlet extending upwardly and downwardly there-through. A conical body member is provided, having in its upper end wall an insertion hole in which the plug is mounted. A support panel is provided at the bottom of the body and cone collars are attached on the outer surface of the body member, with vertical spacing between them. The traffic collar cone is made of flexible material and designed to recover its original shape after being impacted, so that injury to collar cone is eliminated or minimized.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,993,105 to Chan describes a safety marker that includes a hollow frusto-conical body and a base having a bowl-shaped main portion and a resiliently flexible skirt for yieldably stabilizing the marker against tipping relative to a supportive surface.
So far the solutions have focused on self-righting of the traffic cone. However, these solutions are still not satisfactory from a safety standpoint since they still are either too rigid or can still relatively easy fall over. Accordingly, there is a need to develop a better traffic cone or marker device that further improves road and traffic safety.
The present invention provides a new marker device for increased safety due to a flexible design. The marker device of the present invention includes a base with an opening and a flexible means that is positioned over the base. The bottom part of the flexible means is attached to the base. The flexible means has a fast impulse response to direct (contact) and indirect (no-contact) perturbations. Due to the perturbations one or more parts of the flexible means might undergo different degrees of deflection from their original (vertical) position. In general, depending on the type of perturbation (direction of force applied and amount of force applied), one or more parts of the flexible means should be able to allow deflections ranging up to about 180 degrees which is defined from the original (vertical) position. In one example the range of deflection is from about 15 degrees up to about 180 degrees. In case the flexible means is a coil the design of the coil is restricted to the number of loops of the coil in such a manner that during these large deflections the loops maintain spaced from each other; i.e. the loops should for instance not be touching or locking into each other since this would risk that the coil could not restore from the perturbation back to its original position. In addition, touching or intertwined loops might increase the stiffness of the coil during deflections and work against the fast impulse response of the flexible means.
In one embodiment, one or more of the bottom loops of the coil should have a larger diameter than the diameter of the opening of the base. The reason for this is that these bottom loops could get stuck with the base which would jeopardize the restoration of the flexible means from a perturbation.
The marker device of the present invention includes a cover, preferably a mesh-cover, to cover the flexible means. The outside of the cover could include one or more bands of reflective material. In addition, the present invention could include one or more light sources to illuminate the marker device. The light source(s) could be placed inside and/or outside the cover and/or attached to the flexible means and/or the base.
The advantage of the present invention over previous devices is that the present marker device quickly responds and deflects, with one or more parts of the flexible means capable of deflecting up to about 180 degrees from their original position, to direct (contact) and indirect (no-contact) perturbations. The marker device increases the likelihood for the marker device to remain upright once the perturbations disappear, therewith increasing the likelihood for the marker device to remain serving as a marker device safely alerting traffic; i.e. its intended purpose.
The objectives and advantages of the present invention will be understood by reading the following detailed description in conjunction with the drawings, in which:
Although the following detailed description contains many specifics for the purposes of illustration, anyone of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that many variations and alterations to the following exemplary details are within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, the following preferred embodiment of the invention is set forth without any loss of generality to, and without imposing limitations upon, the claimed invention.
The marker device of the present invention could be used to alert or divert vehicles, watercrafts, aircrafts and pedestrians to pass safely around hazards, obstacles or other areas. However, the marker device of the present invention is not limited to any particular use and could also be used for recreational or sporting events. Furthermore, the marker device is usually recognized as a cone and is therefore called safety cone. However, the marker device of the present invention is not limited to any particular shape and could also be straight, curved, circular, cylindrical, square, a hexagonal, a tubular marker, any three-dimensional shape type, or any type of shape that is needed or required to alert or divert someone, or mark-off a particular space or area. Therefore, the device of the present invention is referred to as a marker device. Furthermore, there is also no restriction to the size of the particular marker device or safety cone of the present invention.
Cone 120 includes a flexible lightweight cover 130 that covers a flexible means 140. Preferably, cover 130 is made out of a flexible material that allows cone 120 to easily flex, bend or fold. Cover 130 should not resist or minimal resist the movement of flexible means 140. The top 132 and bottom 134 of cover 130 could be attached to flexible means 140. Instead of attaching bottom 134 of cover 130 to flexible means 140, bottom 134 could be attached to base 110. The type of means for connecting cover 130 is, for instance, but not limited to, stitches, clamp(s), glue, Velcro, a ring (See
In a preferred embodiment, the cover should have air-passing capabilities, e.g. by having a mesh cover, to make it less wind resistant. Examples of cover materials are for instance, but not limited to, a mesh-type material, vinyl, canvas, polyester, or the like. Furthermore, the outside of the cover could include all kinds of shapes and/or reflective material. Preferred shapes (reflective collar(s), stripes, or other types of regulatory shapes or signs) are the ones recommended by the Government (Federal, State/Province or Local; e.g. the U.S. Department of Transportation including the FAA and/or the Federal Highway Administration) and include common traffic control or warning signs.
Flexible means 140 is, for instance, a coil that is shaped as a cone when marker device 100 is meant to be a safety cone. Flexible means 140 provides for the flexibility of marker device 100. The key idea of the present invention is that the base provides stable support on the ground or surface, and the flexible means is in either its original position or a deviated position from the original position caused by indirect (non-contact) or direct (contact) perturbations. Examples of indirect (non-contact) perturbations are, for example, but not limiting to, perturbations caused by natural wind, traffic wind, ground-shaking caused by earthquakes, falling or being dropped on the ground (see also description infra), or the like. Examples of direct (contact) perturbations are, for example, but not limiting to, perturbations from vehicles by hitting, running over or running into the marker device, violence, or the like.
The applied (direct and/or indirect) perturbation force (F) applied at the flexible means for a period of time is an impulse, which is the act of applying force suddenly (See e.g. Webster Dictionary). The mechanical definition of impulse is the action of a force during a very small time interval (See e.g. Webster Dictionary and Oxford Dictionary of Physics). To sustain, without the marker device permanently fallen over, direct and indirect perturbations, the material properties of the flexible means of the present invention require a fast impulse response to these direct and indirect perturbations; i.e. the flexible means needs to respond fast by flexing, bending and/or folding to any direction in response to the suddenly applied (indirect and/or direct) force as shown in
As shown in
In general, depending on the type of perturbation (direction of force applied and amount of force applied), one or more parts of the flexible means should be able to allow deflections of up to about 180 degrees which is defined from the original (vertical) position. In one example the range of deflection is from about 15 degrees up to about 180 degrees. In case the flexible means is a coil the design of the coil is restricted to the number of loops of the coil in such a manner that during these large deflections the loops maintain spaced from each other; i.e. the loops should for instance not be touching or locking into each other since this would risk that the coil could not restore from the perturbation back to its original position. In addition, touching or intertwined loops might increase the stiffness of the coil during deflections and work against the fast impulse response. In general, depending on the height of the marker device between 2–10 loops could be used; i.e. the number of loops spaced between the base and the top of the cone leaving a large space 144 between the loops. Examples of a type of material for the flexible means are, for example, but not limited to, a metal (e.g. aluminum, steel, etc.), a carbon, a graphite, a wood (including bamboo), a fiberglass, a plastic, a rubber or the like.
In one embodiment, in particular for the case that the flexible means is a coil, it is also important that during the perturbations the coil does pop through opening 200. For instance, if the largest diameter of the loops of the coil is the same as or less than the diameter of the opening, then during perturbations (e.g. bending of the coil or pressing the coil downwards) the coil could pop through the opening and one of the bottom loops could get stuck with or under the base. This would be a concern since the coil can then no longer properly restore from the perturbed position back to its original position. To prevent this from happening, the coil in this embodiment would then require that at least one of the bottom loops, e.g. loop 146 of coil 140 has a larger diameter than the diameter of the opening (see top view of
Another example (not shown) is that the marker device of the present invention could be dropped down to the ground (which results in an indirect perturbation to the flexible means, through a direct impact to the base), for instance, but not limited to, from a car or a truck that is delivering several marker devices to an area to, for instance, block an obstacle. The impact of the landing of the marker device on the ground causes sudden and fast perturbations to the flexible means. After landing on the ground, the marker device of the present invention might initially rock but will come to their original and stable position once the rocking motions oscillate out.
The likelihood that the marker device of the present invention remains in that position is facilitated by a very low center of gravity (close to the ground or supporting surface) of the marker device. The low center of gravity is mainly due to a relatively heavier base compared to the combined weight of the flexible means and cover that over positioned over the base (flexible means and cover are preferably made of lightweight material(s)). The center of gravity of the marker device could virtually be close to the top of the base or somewhere in the base in case the difference between the weight of the base and combined weight of the flexible means and cover that are positioned over the base is large as a person of average skill would readily appreciate. Furthermore, the fact that the flexible means (and cover) bends at different spots, with the loops maintaining space between each other (i.e. without loops touching each other or locking into each other), significantly reduces the torque that the perturbed flexible means produces onto the base (this in contrast to existing traffic safety cones or marker devices which have a relatively stiff top/cone part or where coil loops are restricting even small deflections such as less than about 10 degrees). The reduced torque improves the stability of the base and therewith the stability of the marker device of the present invention.
The marker device of the present invention could include one or more light sources such as light source 710 shown in marker device 700 in
The present invention has now been described in accordance with several exemplary embodiments, which are intended to be illustrative in all aspects, rather than restrictive. Thus, the present invention is capable of many variations in detailed implementation, which may be derived from the description contained herein by a person of ordinary skill in the art. For instance, in order to meet the stated (explicit or implied) objectives and advantages of the present invention, the marker device and its components could be designed, manufactured and assembled in a variety of different ways with a variety of compatible different of materials and dimensions. The discussion infra provides some examples of the different materials, dimensions as well as possible assemblies and variations.
Generally speaking, the height of the marker device of the present invention is not restricted. However, the art as well as Government (Federal, State/Province or Local) regulations teach several specific dimensions/heights for safety traffic cones. Examples of such dimensions in the U.S.A. are, for instance, but not limited to, a 14-inch high cone, 18-inch high cone, 28-inch high cone or a 36-inch high cone. As a person of average skill in the art would readily appreciate, the height of the marker device is mostly dependent on the type of use or application as well as on any type of Government regulations or requirements (Federal, State/Province or Local), which (may) vary in different countries/parts around the World.
The flexible means could also include one or more rods as long as the physical characteristics of the rod(s) meet the objectives and advantages of the present invention as they are discussed supra; i.e. the rods have a fast impulse response to direct and indirect perturbations. This includes the need to allow for large deflections of one or more parts of the rod(s) as described supra.
The present invention is also not limited to a marker device with one flexible means since it could also include two or more flexible means each with a fast impulse response to direct and indirect perturbations. This includes the need to allow for large deflections of one or more parts of each of the flexible means as described supra.
All such variations are considered to be within the scope and spirit of the present invention as defined by the following claims and their legal equivalents.
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|U.S. Classification||116/63.00C, 116/63.00P|
|International Classification||E01F9/00, E01F9/012, E01F9/017|
|Cooperative Classification||E01F9/654, E01F9/688, E01F9/629|
|European Classification||E01F9/012A, E01F9/017B|
|Aug 3, 2004||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: WORLWIDE SAFETY LLC, CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:GARCIA, GUADALUPE C.;REEL/FRAME:015647/0931
Effective date: 20040729
|Feb 6, 2009||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: TTB PRODUCTS, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:WORLDWIDE SAFETY, LLC;REEL/FRAME:022214/0650
Effective date: 20090126
Owner name: TRAFFIX DEVICES, INC., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:WORLDWIDE SAFETY, LLC;REEL/FRAME:022214/0647
Effective date: 20090126
|Sep 8, 2009||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 4
|Mar 12, 2013||FPAY||Fee payment|
Year of fee payment: 8